Vacation of a Lifetime in Arizona & New Mexico with Michele Chandler

Vacation of a Lifetime in Arizona & New Mexico with Michele Chandler

Arizona, Vacation of a Lifetime Select Registry – June 2, 2014

The following is from Michele Chandler's blog, chronicling her Vacation of a Lifetime.

I was trying to come up with a cute name for the Select Registry May trip for my friend Andrea’s 50th birthday – something like, vortexes, hikes, bikes, Route 66. But we did so many different things I realized it was too hard to sum it up in less than 10 words!

Planning a road trip through Northern Arizona and New Mexico was un-tracked territory, so we left everything to fall into place once we arrived in Sedona. The only must-dos were some hiking and biking after a long, inactive winter. When we woke up that first Sedona morning, we realized that the red-rock topography needed to be explored.

There is also a cool twist to hiking in Sedona – vortexes. The local trail maps identified 5 areas around the town which may contain energy fields. Believers or not, we decided to explore the vortex trails.

We hiked the easy airport mesa as a warm-up walk. I climbed up the rock to get a vista of the town, but Andrea made a quick ascent, and a quicker descent feeling a little overwhelmed by the energy. It was an interesting split decision by our reactions to the vortex at the airport.  In the afternoon, we drove out to the beautiful Bell Rock trail, and again, we had different responses to the energy field at the base of the mountain.

By the time we reached the Lodge at Sedona Bed & Breakfast, we were pooped. Two middle-aged girls taking on 2 hikes in 1 day just about finished us off on our first day! The Lodge was a wonderful refuge to put your feet up and relax after hikes in the red dust. Liz the Innkeeper encouraged us to ‘up our game’ the next day and provided wonderful insight on her favourite hikes in the area. Under her sage advice, we decided to try the backside hike up Cathedral Rock.

In the morning we thanked the staff at the Lodge, and headed out to the Oak Creek trailhead. Seeing running water in the desert is really like an oasis. The contrast of green foliage and wild flowers against the red rock and clay was one of the magical moments in Sedona. We walked in for about 1 ½ hours, and then contemplated the ascent of Cathedral. Andrea made the choice to hike to the top, while I enjoyed the view, and the energy (yes I felt the vortex energy on this hike) 2/3rds up the mountain. Dusty and happy we hiked out, pleased with our respective Cathedral Rock experiences.

For another Cathedral experience, we stopped into the magnificent Catholic church embedded in the rocks on the south side of Sedona. A true timeless, architectural wonder, it was well worth the visit to see how a building that size could be so unobtrusive in the landscape.

Our hosts, Peg and Les Belch at Canyon Villa Bed & Breakfast were very gracious as we arrived on their doorstep dusty and exhausted. Their beautiful property backs onto Cathedral Rock, so we continued to enjoy the mountain that we had just climbed.  I took some time to literally ‘stop and smell the roses’ in the gardens, and enjoy the pool and the afternoon sun, while Andrea took a well-earned nap.

We managed to rouse ourselves in time to catch the ‘bucket list’ sunset from the airport lookout. The colours of the rocks continually changed as the sun dipped off to the west – well worth the wait!

The next morning we had to set off relatively early for our 6 hour drive up to Santa Fe, NM.  I was amazed again at the lush green landscape that surrounds Sedona. As we drove the winding and ascending (8000 ft) route up to Flagstaff, I really didn’t think I was in Arizona! Just as we reached the summit, the forests disappeared and we turned due east into the sunburned scrub of Northern AZ. Miles and miles of untouched land, marked occasionally by a highway exit, and a welcome side trip to Winslow.

I won’t quote the Eagles song, but I will wax poetic about our lunch at the La Posada hotel.  Some visionaries had the foresight to invest in this beautiful railroad lodge, which still is an active Amtrak stop. The food was amazing, and the restoration worth the trip on old Route 66.

Route 66 is a legendary, but unfortunately now, only a romantic notion of a byway. The highway’s history had prospectors travelling westbound from Chicago for a better life. Parts of the original “66” have been kept up or restored which made for wonderful diversions from a dusty interstate.

We thought we were making good time, but I called our hosts at the Don Gaspar Inn in Santa Fe to let them know where we were, and Patrick, one of the Innkeepers replied, “oh we will see you after 9 PM then”. Puzzled, he reminded us that we would lose an hour crossing the New Mexico State line!

So unfortunately we arrived later than expected in the pretty town of Santa Fe, but Anna and Patrick made sure we had a great arrival.  With a quick call to Domino’s and a bottle of Gruet sparkling, our first night in the Main House at the Don Gaspar was memorable.

All through our trip, both Andrea and I were amazed at the vibrant spring gardens we got to enjoy. Both of us are avid gardeners (albeit I’m in zone 6, and she’s in Zone 10), but neither of us expected the variety of plant life we experienced in the 2 states.

Walking slowly around the town that afternoon – I really felt it at the 7500 ft. altitude – we enjoyed Community Day in Santa Fe along with the locals and the tourists.  We wandered the farmers market for local chilies, visited the Georgia O’Keefe museum and also some of the other over-100 galleries around the area. Lunch was at legendary Café Pasqual’s communal table where we got to chat to locals and tourists alike about their Santa Fe experiences.

The thin air made for great napping in New Mexico, so an early check in at El Farolito Bed & Breakfast with our hosts Wayne and Walt let us unwind before dinner. Wayne and I chatted about his gorgeous Japanese maples and he provided great ideas for dinner destinations.

Sunday morning brought some big winds and even the prediction of snow to Santa Fe that afternoon, so Andrea and I decided to leave the higher elevations earlier than expected towards our final destination of Albuquerque. We decided to take a secondary road known as the “Turquoise Trail”. We ambled through small mining towns that ranged from one-horse (Cerrilos) to funky (Madrid) watching the weather roll in over the Rockies. With a little extra time we drove the 14 miles up to the top of Sandia Peak – the looming mountain above Albuquerque. The wind whipped our little car and the air was pretty thin, so we didn’t linger at 2 miles above sea level.

We made our way to our final stop, Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm in the northern part of the city. Unlike any Select Registry property I had yet to visit, Los Poblanos sits on 25 acres and is an active farm with livestock, and more importantly, lots and lots of lavender.

It was a real treat to have some time to explore the historic inn, meet their critters, and hang out with the peacocks that roam around. Again we were astounded at the meticulous gardens growing in what we erroneously believed to be desert scrub.

After a great organic breakfast, Andrea and I took out the free bikes for an 8 mile ride along the greenbelt rail-trail enjoying great views and water fowl nesting in the banks.  We bid farewell to Los Poblanos with great memories and also great lavender products from the land.

Wanting to be early at the airport to drop our car, we neglected to check to see if our flights were on time, and unfortunately due to weather they had been cancelled. That Rocky Mountain weather had wreaked havoc with our connections, so with an extra day in the city, we watched an ominous sunset from the Apothecary Bar at the Parc Central Hotel, giving us a great opportunity to celebrate Andrea’s birthday while laughing about our hikes, bikes, and ‘likes’ around Route 66.